The Karnes Countywide reached out to the persons Shaw identified by their positions or former positions, to offer them an opportunity to respond or comment.
Shaw submitted her resignation from the office of Karnes County Judge March 14 and cited her reason for resigning as being due to increasing animosity between herself and a group she called the “Karnes County Patriots” which she said led to an increasingly hostile work environment for herself and her administrative assistant.
In her letter of resignation, Shaw accused local officials and county employees of sending or receiving emails that were “psychologically disturbing, childish and bizarre.”
The emails first came to light when Karnes County Deputy Jim Pearce resigned from his position in August 2013 after learning that copies of emails he had sent to a group had come into the possession of County Commissioner Pete Jauer and then County Judge Barbara Shaw.
Pearce told The Karnes Countywide at that time that he had been sending the emails privately and regularly many people on a contact list he kept as a way to keep different people up to date on various incidents and situations involving county officials. He described the emails as local political satire – an attempt to bring some levity and humor to what had become an increasingly stressful and hostile work environment at the county offices.
“Information that was given to me,” Pearce said. “I passed it on to people who I felt like care about the county and do not like to see the direction that the county judge... This is my own personal opinion, that she has made the laughingstock of our county, of 254 counties in the state of Texas,” Pearce said regarding numerous personal conflicts he has seen develop between the county judge, other county officials and local residents.
Jim Adams, who is a trustee on the Karnes City ISD school board, and one of the individuals identified in Shaw’s resignation letter, said that he thought it was ironic that many of the people associated with the group who received Pearce’s emails sent via the list, were supporters of Shaw when she ran for office four years ago.
“The group that she is lashing out at is the same group that put her in office,” Adams said. “It is so sad that she would even put that in there.”
“We have all had our differences,” Adams said, explaining that elected officials know that they run the risk of being made fun of when they make the choice to run for office. “This is like if Obama or anyone else in the public sector would lash out at every late night talk show host who made fun of them, then everybody would be in hot water.”
The emails were never meant to become public, Adams emphasized, but became so as a result of open records requests filed by Shaw or her husband.
Adams said he thought the fact that he was among the 11 listed in the resignation, likely had something to do with a school board election coming up, in which he will face an opponent.
“I still have my First Amendment rights,” Adams said, regarding the private email messages, pointing out that he never had and never would said anything negative about Shaw in a public manner or in his position as a trustee.
Karnes County Precinct 4 Constable Fernando Rios said that many of the statements in Shaw’s resignation letter were either grossly exaggerated or just simply untrue.
“It is all bogus,” Rios said. “A lot of lies. I don’t know where to start on it. I don’t even know how I go in this mess!” Rios said, laughing about a situation that he said has become more and more awkward over time.
Rios said there were more than sixty people on the email list which he said included numerous local law-enforcement officers, elected officials and county employees.
The emails were attempts at humor, Rios said, and Shaw is reading into them threats or accusations that simply were not intended to be taken seriously by anyone.
Over the past few years, different conflicts have come up between himself and the Shaws, Rios explained.
He described an awkward verbal confrontation recently with Shaw’s husband that came close to becoming more than just “verbal.”
“Her husband would walk up to me,” Rios said. “He caught me out in front of the debate, and made a line straight to my vehicle and said, ‘How are you doing, Pancho Villa?’”
“That is a racist remark,” Rios said. “I didn’t give myself that name. I never gave myself any name.”
Rios said he just let the comment go.
“I”m not a vindictive person,” Rios said. “I’ve been in this business for 30 years now. I have been in the public light. I know what can happen when something gets twisted out of context.”
Threats were often perceived, where there were no actual threats, Rios said, and conflicts emerged and multiplied over the past four years, and as a result, life has been made very difficult for many elected officials and county employees.
“I’m just trying to keep my end of the world in one piece,” Rios said.